The way we reward teachers and students is so peculiar, and the way we pay for our schools is so unfair. Education is something we all benefit from, it is common wealth. Turning it into private property or auctioning it in the marketplace, both are obscene.
Re: mental health. In too many schools too many teachers experience "burn-out." Consider the growing numbers of students and teachers who take prescription drugs to help them get through their days at school. Why is the number of school-age suicides not declining?
Re: quality of service. Why is it so difficult to keep good teachers? Why does the number of students who drop out of school keep growing? What does your neighborhood school look like? Is the environment well-kept and clean? Do the buildings appear to be safe and maintained? Is the school open or fenced? Do the classrooms have enough books and desks for every student? What about the school district next door?
Re: virtue. Although test scores mean a lot to the people who have the power to allocate resources, scores have little to do with education. Education is about cultivating the minds and character of the next generation. The root sense, of virtue, is of strength and knowing what is right, a sense of justice. There are, I believe, many virtuous teachers and students who want to gain virtue, but the spiritual crisis that seems to permeate American culture makes virtue an unprofitable commodity.
For most of my life, I've been a student or a teacher. My experiences in many varied learning environments, my apprenticeships, my readings, and observing and thinking about education, have not brought me enlightenment or practical recipes that will save education in America. (My apologies, what were you expecting?) There are some people who have also been plowing this field, working this mine, shoveling shit at times, but wanting to get out of this catastrophe and into the Next Thing.
In recent times, The Whole Earth Catalog stands as a sort of benchmark, an encyclopedic collection of the most interesting non-mainstream ideas and heresies we could find. It remains a great example of a Tools resource. Other interesting bits came from Paul Goodman and Michael Harrington, Joe Chilton Pearce, Bucky Fuller and Marshall McLuhan. There are many more in my list of great teachers, and they are not all male. But for now, I offer these giants for your (re) consideration ....